Cross-channel journey times could be cut by a third as Eurotunnel opens its doors to horses for the first time.

Providing an alternative to the 90-minute ferry route to the Continent, horses can now travel in passenger trains that Eurotunnel hopes will offer a faster, smoother and more reliable service.

Ten horseboxes have completed the 35-minute crossing since the service was launched on 1 March.

Working with horse transporter Peden Bloodstock, Eurotunnel is aiming the service at racing and showjumping transporters with air-cooled vehicles.

Horses travel in their own horsebox under the charge of their regular driver and groom.

“Horses can be affected by seasickness on ferries, but by travelling in the tunnel they won’t be exposed to rough seas,” said Henry Bullen of Pedens.

Eurotunnel carried out a number of trials with horses before launching the service.

“Most dozed all the way,” said John Keefe from Eurotunnel.

Mr Keefe said Eurotunnel has a vet on standby for emergencies or breakdowns and panicking horses would be handled by grooms, as on the road or on a ferry crossing.

Eurotunnel declined to reveal how much the “exclusive service” would cost, but said it was expected to be around twice that of a ferry journey — which starts at around £358 for a 6-8m lorry.

The company has no plans to transport other livestock.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (25 March, ’10)